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April 2021


The Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® initiative has a record-breaking year in the face of COVID-19—details to come in the PBI June 2021 Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge Report. Exciting news for pro bono champions everywhere!


Another new Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory just joined, bringing our total to five new CPBO Challenge signatories so far this year! We welcome:

  • GlaxoSmithKline LLC**
  • Kimberly-Clark**
  • Koch Industries, Inc.**
  • State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company**
  • Xperi Holding Corporation**

Reminder: The current CPBO Challenge® signatories’ responses to our Corporate Pro Bono annual survey are due May 3.

Virtually Pro Bono

PBI 2021 Annual Conference

As so many other organizations have done, PBI pivoted to virtual for the 2021 Annual Conference, bringing nearly 300 attendees substantive content, meaningful sessions, and networking opportunities. Attended the conference but missed a session? Conference content will be available on the OnAIR platform through May 30, 2021. You’ll also find select Annual Conference sessions that offer CLE credit at West LegalEdcenter in the coming weeks. We will send full Conference registrants more information about how to access those sessions at no additional cost.

For those who missed the conference, you will be able to find sessions, many offering CLE credit, available at West LegalEdcenter.

The 2021 Annual Conference opened with Justice Talks, TED Talk-like presentations presented by access to justice luminaries.

  • The Honorable Anna Blackburne Rigsby—Ensuring Access to Justice: Pro Bono Services Helping Close the Justice Gap WATCH
  • Peter Edelman—Access to Justice Isn’t Good Enough WATCH
  • Cynthia Roseberry—What’s Race Got to Do with It? WATCH
  • Yvette Wilson Barnes—Diversity and Healing in Uncertain Times WATCH

Need some inspiration? Watch Jim Sandman, President Emeritus, Legal Services Corporation, interview 2021 Esther F. Lardent Hall of Fame Award honoree Judge Jonathan Lippman, a special part of the Annual Conference Awards Presentation. WATCH NOW

You can also access the full Awards Presentation, and see all of our amazing 2020 and 2021 honorees, here.

A Holistic Approach to Second Chances

The Biden Administration has proclaimed April 2021 as “Second Chance Month.” Join PBI as we take a look at what the District of Minnesota Reentry Court is doing to reduce recidivism. It’s a post-release program that incorporates pro bono legal services as it serves formerly incarcerated individuals who are most at risk of returning to prison. 

When imagining a courtroom, one word that comes to mind is intimidating. Even as an observer, I can feel my body stiffen when walking into a court. The security guards seem to watch like hawks, the judge presides above you, the attorneys appear cold and stern, and the courtroom itself feels sterile and detached. This reality can leave those participating in and observing court feeling isolated and nervous.

These preconceived notions about what a courtroom is like are anything but true when it comes to the District of Minnesota’s Reentry Court program. Twice a month the courtroom reconfigures itself into a warm, inviting, and supportive environment where formerly incarcerated individuals join a team of prosecutors, federal defenders, mentors, probation officers, and a judge to try and lessen the likelihood of returning to prison.

For formerly incarcerated individuals, this program serves as an alternative to traditional post-conviction supervision. The goal of the program is to reduce recidivism by providing a plethora of resources and people that can aid individuals with their transition back to the community. READ MORE IN OUR LATEST BLOG

The True Cost of Unpaid Fines and Fees

In D.C., a coalition of anti-poverty, civil rights, public interest, faith-based, and civic community groups are calling on D.C. leaders to enact urgent, systemic reform of the laws under which any D.C. resident who has unpaid fines or fees totaling $100 or more is automatically disqualified from obtaining or renewing a driver’s license without inquiry as to the driver’s ability to pay. This automatic disqualification is essentially a punishment for poverty that makes it more difficult for D.C. residents to obtain a job, remain employed, or get to a grocery store, childcare, a medical appointment, or a family visit. The current system also furthers racial inequity, because Black D.C. households have less wealth, and Black D.C. drivers are more likely to receive traffic tickets or be arrested for driving without a permit, than their white neighbors in D.C.

Many states in U.S. have laws in place that suspend, revoke, or prohibit the renewal of driver’s license for failure to pay fines and fees. For pro bono volunteers, these policies present meaningful opportunities for engagement, whether providing services to individual’s clients or advocating or changes in local policies.  You can read more about these issues in a blog PBI published in June 2020. See The Cost of Driving in America: Criminalization of Poverty through Fines and Fees – The PBEye. LEARN MORE

From Aspiring Film Critic to the “Queen of Pro Bono”

Did you know that while a student at Brown University, PBI’s late founder Esther F. Lardent aspired to become a college professor and film critic? But after a summer volunteering for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Esther changed course and decided to become a lawyer. At the time, lawyers at CORE and NAACP were developing the Boston school desegregation lawsuit. Esther was inspired and quickly realized that lawyers are uniquely positioned to create meaningful social change. She returned to her senior year in college and applied to law school to become a civil rights lawyer.

Last week, PBI began its commemoration of what would have been Esther’s 74th birthday on April 23. Please join us in celebrating Esther’s lifelong work to achieve equal justice for all by making a personal donation to Pro Bono Institute. This year marks PBI’s 25th Anniversary, which makes observing Esther’s birthday all the more meaningful.

During these unprecedented times, PBI has continued to develop resources and provide consulting assistance to law firms and in-house law departments as they respond to the increased need for pro bono legal services. We know that when the pandemic ends, the need will not wane. With your generosity, we can ensure that the organization that Esther built stays strong and carries on her legacy of transforming the pro bono efforts of law firms, in-house law departments, and public interest organizations in the U.S. and around the world. Please consider making a personal donation to support PBI in building on 25 years of success.

Please contact PBI Development Director Danny Reed at 202.729.6691 or with questions or to donate by electronic funds transfer (ACH or wire), to donate securities, or to include PBI in your estate plans.

Many thanks for considering this request.

Two Decades of Exceptional In-House Pro Bono

In 2020, Corporate Pro Bono® (CPBO®), the global in-house project of Pro Bono Institute (PBI), celebrated its 20th anniversary, and published the 2020 Benchmarking Report, the sixth biannual report on the state of in-house pro bono. When CPBO was first founded, in-house pro bono was far less common than it is today. Within a decade, in-house pro bono programs had multiplied and expanded. To track and measure pro bono engagement, CPBO began surveying in-house pro bono leaders about their legal departments’ pro bono programs in 2010, and every other year thereafter. Many of the Benchmarking Survey respondents are signatories of the Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® initiative, while others are departments with robust programs that participate in CPBO and PBI programming, including the PBI Annual Conference. These reports capture the growth, development, and expansion of in-house pro bono environments.

Looking over the six Benchmarking Reports, the top five areas of law in which legal departments have concentrated their pro bono efforts over the years are the following: Corporate Law (including representation of nonprofits), Contracts or Commercial Law, Family Law, Immigration Law, and Real Estate (including Landlord/Tenant cases). The top five client populations served are low-income/minority groups, children/organizations assisting children, nonprofits generally, immigrants, and veterans/emergency responders.


* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory
† denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Project® member